We are all familiar with the Nigerian email scam, a common version of which begins with an email informing you that someone has died in Nigeria and has left you a large sum of money in his or her Will.  You are initially told that you do not have to pay anything to get your funds, but as time goes, on you are asked for payment after payment under a variety of guises.  Of course, the whole thing is a scam.  Most people recognize that they don’t know anyone in Nigeria and ignore the email.  However, there is now circulating a version of this scam that is a bit more convincing.  It starts when you receive an email or snail mail letter that appears to come from a legitimate law firm that is handling an estate here in the United States.  The email or letter informs you that indeed you are a beneficiary of the estate and it names someone who has the same last name as you as the person leaving you a bequest in his or her Will.  Even though you don’t recognize the name of the deceased, it may appear to be legitimate.  You are asked t pay a small “administrative fee” of generally between $20 and $50 to receive your inheritance.  Then you are asked to send them information about your bank account so that the law firm can wire the money to your account.  The problem is that anyone responding to this email or letter ends up not only losing the funds sent as the “administrative fee,” but also may provide sufficient information about their bank account to enable the identity thief to access their account and steal all of the money in it.

TIPS

This version of the Nigerian email scam is a bit more sophisticated than the usual version that still circulates on the Internet. The story is not so outrageously ridiculous as is often found in the more common versions of this scam. However, the common thread of something for nothing still appears in the scam and should make you immediately skeptical. In this case, you should confirm that the law firm contacting you is a legitimate law firm which is easy to do.  Then you should contact the real law firm (if there is one) to determine whether or not they contacted you or someone posing as a real law firm did so.  The request for an administrative fee is another indication that this is a scam because legitimate law firms do not charge administrative fees to beneficiaries of estates.  You also could research the name of the deceased person at the Probate Court where the estate is supposedly being administered.

For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.”  Scamicide was recently cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.

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